Sunday, May 10, 2009

evaporation, by brent goodman

This month, poet Brent Goodman has given us permission to discuss one of his poems. We've selected "Evaporation," which appeared December 30, 2008, as the weekly installment of Linebreak.

Read the poem several times. What are your first impressions? What story is the narrator telling? How does he feel about the story? Remember: for purposes of discussion, always assume the narrator is different from the poet. In your initial read of the piece, try to simply absorb the characters, the settings, the images, the "happenings" and the emotions.

Then read the poem out loud. Read it out loud again, but slower this time.

How has the poet crafted the piece? What devices is he using to deliver you the images, happenings and emotions you grabbed the first-time through? Remember: the poet is the author. He has placed his words exactly how he wants them to "make" the poem. On these reads, think about things like repetition of phrases or sounds, stanza breaks -- or the lack of them and line length. Think about the strength of each word: how precise the verbs are (cuts, splices, confides) and how specific the nouns are (MGB instead of "car" and moraines instead of "hills" or "ridges").

Use the comments section to discuss any of these ideas or let us know what the poem brings out in you. Next week, we'll propose a writing prompt based on our discussion!


Brent's debut poetry collection, The Brother Swimming Beneath Me (2009), is available from Black Lawrence Press. He is the author of two chapbooks: Trees are the Slowest Rivers and the award-winning Wrong Horoscope.

Be sure to go visit Brent at his blog (the brother swimming beneath me) to thank him for offering up "Evaporation" to us and to encourage him in his recovery from a recent heart attack. He's making wonderful progress!


Administrative note: As you may have noticed, we got off track a bit last month. We're catching up now. If you're interested in how it happened, you can check the housekeeping note here. Welcome back!


Leslie F. Miller said...

OK, wow. Wow to it all: story, sound, line breaks, surprises, repetition.

My favorite image is the peas spitting from a mouth telling the story.

The poem will be remembered like a movie you swear you'd seen. But it was a poem. And that's what a great poem does to you.

Linda Jacobs said...

Oh, this is an amazing poem! Talk about images that zing! I, too, loved the peas. And this line: "Dreamt he
swallowed sky until his blood turned
to wind." It's just so poetic!

I'm definitely going to buy his book!

Jill said...

Thanks for stopping by! We thought you'd like this one! Please invite your friends and neighbors to join us!

Gavin said...

This is an amazing poem. I can feel that cold dry evaporation in my mouth. I've visited Brent's site will buy his book.

Anonymous said...

One hell of a poem.
I was thrown at first by the grammar of the first few lines – My brother swears a mouthful of freon ... swears what? Swears that? Swears with? Swears because? All of the above, I guess. And it very quickly doesn't matter – cues you in to the associational nature of what follows. Nothing makes complete logical sense, because nothing about the story (the brother's action, the "punishment" the brother receives, the way other people react) makes logical sense.
A really powerful example of mimesis, and a stunningly evocative poem.

Donald Harbour said...

Well now, got tied up on first of the month and she just let me go. Since the lady with new and improved sight is proctor I offer this observation.

I sense a struggle with life and spirituality in this poem. The metaphors stand out like neon lights. He lost his brother and realizes how a life can be relinquished almost as if it had not been there. In the end he begins to struggle with his own mortality. Dreams are such sweet guideposts.